Let’s Get Fermenting!

Fermented foods and drinks have really been interesting to Colin and I lately. I’ve been interested in brewing Kombucha for awhile now, mainly because buying it at the store can get really expensive, really quickly. Then, out of the blue, Colin came home with the idea to make sourdough bread. He had heard about the benefits of consuming fermented foods on a podcast and wanted to look into making our own sourdough bread. Through researching it, we found a lot of studies that suggest that those with gluten sensitivity did not have the same reaction to sourdough bread as they did to regular bread. The reason for this is that the fermentation process essentially breaks down the gluten proteins, making it easier for some people to digest.

Luckily, we received just what we needed for both projects for Christmas! Colin’s parents got me this kombucha starter kit and Colin a sourdough starter kit. We have had a lot of fun getting both of these started! I will give updates as they come together but right now we are waiting on our two new “pets” to ferment. I will say that kombucha is SO much easier because it is essentially making tea and then letting it hang out in a closet for a week. The sourdough starter has to be fed every 12-24 hours but it is still a fun process to watch!

The sourdough starter has grown tremendously!

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My Kombucha has been safely hanging out in the closet since Saturday! Flavor will be added this coming Saturday before the second fermentation. I will make a full post on both of these soon!

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Controlling the Christmas Clutter

Happy New Year!

The last two weeks of the year were hard, y’all, I’m not even going to lie. Declan and I have been sick for over a week but life is slowly going back to normal now. Today, I felt better and finally took control of the toy situation that was happening in the living room. Declan was incredibly blessed by great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles this year and wound up with a lot of toys. I don’t feel bad about this because we honestly don’t buy him random things throughout the year so all of his toys have come from his birthday and now Christmas. He obviously loves EVERYTHING but seeing EVERYTHING every time I walk into the living room isn’t good for my sanity so I condensed. I packed up several toys and sets of toys and plan to rotate them out throughout the next few months. This will keep him from getting bored and will keep me from going crazy so it’s a win win 🙂 I left his train table and trains but packaged up the tracks that kept winding up all over the floor. I left out his Little People Farm but packaged up both canisters of Animal Planet animal figures that I stepped on no less than a dozen times, and I packaged up the wooden blocks but left out the Magformers. It has already made a difference in how I feel in the common areas of our home and next week or next month when he’s having a hard day, we will swap out the Magformers for wooden blocks or his farm for the Animal Planet figures and he will feel like it’s Christmas all over again. I imagine this will only get harder as he gets older so feel free to share any tips or tricks in the comments!

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How do you tame the chaos? Any good toy organization tips for me? Leave them in the comments! Our playroom is almost complete and it will feel so good to move all toys out there but they will still need to be organized!

Book Review: A Simplified Life

A book review of A Simplified Life by Emily Ley

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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of these links, I may make a small commission. All opinions are my own. 

I fell in love with the idea of a simpler life when I stopped working but it was always a struggle with Colin still working in retail management. When he switched jobs in August, we got intentional about slowing down and simplifying as much as possible. Slow Saturday morning breakfasts, leisurely strolls through the park (and Home Depot) with Declan, dinners at the table with the tv off, and time spent on projects around the house to make it feel more like home all felt like steps in the simple direction. I also made daily routines that helped me keep the house clean (for the most part) on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always spotless, but 99% of the time, if unexpected company dropped in, I wouldn’t want to hide out of embarrassment. I heard someone on a podcast say once that living a simple life is often misunderstood as you having a lot of free time but it’s actually just the act of living a focused life. Focusing on what is important and letting the rest go. For us, living in a tidy house is important and helps us both sleep well at night so it is a focus of mine. However, we still have a lot of extra things that we could do without so I was excited to read this book.

Last year, I watched Minimalism on Netflix and read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I like the idea of minimalism but in this season of life, it isn’t realistic. Maybe when the kids are older, but right now I would drive myself crazy if I tried to follow it strictly. Insert Emily Ley’s new book,A Simplified Life.

First up, I have to mention how pretty this book is. It is a sturdy, hardcover book with thick pages and beautiful pictures throughout. There are also many pages throughout where you can journal your progress or make checklists, a step I skipped because I plan to send this book to another Mama that I think would like it. It’s also an easy read, I breezed through it in less than 24 hours.

Emily talks about organization in all aspects of your life and how cutting out the chaos that physical objects can bring, will ultimately bring you to a simpler life. Her approach, for me, is much more realistic while living with a toddler and soon to be newborn. I also like that in the beginning of the book, she asks that all readers promise to not spend any money in the process of organizing your house because my Amazon loving heart was already envisioning clear canisters filling my pantry and closet organizational tools.

I will be updating on my organizational progress here on the blog but I definitely plan to implement some of the suggestions in the book. There is nothing revolutionary in this book but it was a great motivational kick in the pants to get back on track with intentionally simplifying our home and life. I highly recommend it if the idea of minimalism is appealing, yet a little overwhelming for your season of life. It is on sale here for just $12!

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Why I Quit Lularoe

Why I quit Lularoe and what you should know before you join!

Today, I am going to talk about why I quit Lularoe. I want to explain how my Lularoe journey started though so if you’re not interested in the beginning, feel free to scroll down a bit 🙂

Why I quit Lularoe

I found Lularoe right before Declan, now 16 months old, was born. I had heard the tales of how “butter soft” the leggings were and was super confused about the terminology regarding “unicorns”. Right before he was born though, I was spending a lot of time in bed, scrolling through FB mindlessly and kept coming upon these FB live sales where consultants were showing off what they got in their brand new boxes… And customers were eating it up. It was fun, it was addicting, and it felt a lot like lounging around with some girlfriends event though all of my girlfriends would have told me to put down the McDonalds, put on some pants, and go walk around the block.

Declan’s delivery and the weeks following were nothing like we planned and the recovery period was much longer. I desperately wanted to find a way to stay home from work when my maternity leave ended but we had moved into an apartment to be able to save to buy our first home… How was I going to stay home if we wanted to buy a home? *Insert thoughts about those live sales* I spent a lot of my recovery time researching Lularoe. I watched youtube videos where consultants tearfully explained that they had paid back their initial investment of $5000 and more in their first month and read blog posts where they insisted that the market was not saturated and there was never a better time to join this growing company. I decided that THIS, this is how I was going to stay home from my retail management job and joined the queue. My wait time was about 7 weeks and during that time I started my FB shopping group, scheduled countless pop ups and read review after review of every single supply item that I would need. When my inventory arrived that December night last year, I was ready.

To be clear, I never thought that Lularoe was going to be a get rich quick scheme. I was never under the impression that it would be easy and I was ready to work my butt off and believe me, work I did. We were living in a second story apartment at the time but I joyfully lugged all 13 of those 50lb Ikea bags down those stairs, into the parking lot, loaded them in the truck, and carted them all over the states of Tennessee and Mississippi multiple times a week for pop ups. I stayed up until the wee hours of the night, most of the time with a baby strapped to me, while taking inventory photos or hosting those same live sales that had gotten me hooked in the first place.

My sales were never through the roof but they were steady. They helped pay bills that allowed me to stay home. That extra source of income was what gave my husband the confidence to get out of a toxic work environment that he had endured for far too long. For that, I’ll be forever grateful. Our life is completely different today than it was this time last year and all it took was me being able to supplement his income enough to say “I’ve got these bills and groceries so even if you have to take a pay cut, we will make it”. He found an incredible job making more than he was before and our quality of life has never been higher. Not because of the money, but because of the time that we now have to be a family.

Around August of this year, something changed. Sales stopped. Not just for me, for most consultants that I know. I don’t know if it had to do with the constant stream of bad press that the home office was getting or that people eventually just grew tired of the brand, but sales came to a pretty severe halt. The top earners are still selling like crazy but the little guys like me and my friends were just not seeing those steady numbers anymore. Live sales, album sales, vendor events, in home pop ups, online multi consultant sales, in person multi consultant sales, nothing was working. I kept working at it, determined that it was just a phase and that the sales would be back but the bad press kept rolling in and the sales were few and far between. One day in early October, I sat down with Colin and talked it out with him and we decided that I would close up shop. It’s that simple. There is no bad blood, I don’t hate Lularoe, it had nothing to do with the buzzfeed articles that you’ve probably read at this point, we just decided that the return was no longer justifying the investment of my time and with another baby on the way, family and school needs to be my main focus.

If you’re thinking of signing up to be a Lularoe consultant, here are some things you need to know:

  1. It’s a LARGE upfront investment. The onboarding packages right now start at $5000 and that doesn’t include leggings. You’ll also need about $500 in supplies including racks, lighting equipment, business cards, the list goes on forever lol.
  2. There are A LOT of consultants. In my area alone, there are over 40 of us. Before you sign up, know how many consultants are in your area. Are they making sales? Are they involved in the community? Are the fostering an environment of community over competition?
  3. The youtube videos lie. If you make $5k in your first month, GREAT! But the majority of that will go to purchase new inventory, not paying back your initial investment. Be prepared to not be able to pay that back for awhile. The average seems to be 9 months to a year but I know several consultants who have been in it longer than that who haven’t paid themselves back yet.
  4. It may feel like a small business, but it is still a multi level marketing company. This means that you don’t actually have control. Decisions will be made that you don’t agree with. Prints will be sent that you think are terrible. Bad press will happen and customers will ask you about it. Just be prepared to put on that smile and spread positivity even when you’re mad.
  5. FB is saturated. Gone are the days of throwing up pictures and watching the “sold” comments roll in. Most Lularoe shoppers are in 5-10 groups which means that they are seeing a lot of inventory and they may like what they see in those groups more. There is nothing you can do about it except try to find other ways to sell. Unfortunately, FB algorithms are also hiding posts from customers so it’s even harder to reach your target market, even if they are already in your group. FB has said that it plans to roll out a new algorithm next year to help with this issue but we aren’t sure what that will look like.

As I pack up my inventory to send back to the company tonight, I’m sending nothing but love and positive vibes to all of the consultants out there still hanging on, fighting the good fight. Y’all are the real MVPS, but this fight is no longer for me.

How to Build a Blanket Ladder out of Scrap Lumber

This past week I came pretty close to losing my mind. My schedule was overbooked, I had final exams, and Declan barely slept. So what’s a girl to do when she has too much to do? Head to the garage and build a blanket ladder, of course! I obviously could have used that time to study but then I wouldn’t have anywhere to put my one blanket lol. That’s right, after I finished with this project that was SO important that it had to be done before studying for finals, I realized that I only have one spare throw… And it may belong to my Mom.

To build this blanket ladder, I used 3 extra 2x4x8s that we had left over from our garage renovation.

First step: Using a miter saw, cut one of the 2x4s into six 16 inch pieces. These will be the rungs of your ladder. 25287203_10155819019919351_229670763_n

Next, cut the other two 2x4s down to six feet. This part is up to you based on how tall you want your ladder to be but I used six foot pieces. I eventually want to make a shorter one for towels in my bathroom.

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Once all of your cuts are made, it is time to measure where the rungs of your ladder, your 16 inch pieces, will go. From the top of your six foot pieces, measure and pencil mark at 3 inches. This will be where the top of your first rung starts. From there, measure 12 inches down and mark your board five more times. Your marks should be at 3, 15, 27, 39, 51, and 63 inches. Be sure to do this to both of your 6 foot pieces so that the rungs are perfectly even.

Now it is time to assemble! Using wood glue, 2 1/2 inch nails, and an 18 gauge nailer, line your rungs up with your pencil marked measurements and secure in place. Wood glue first, then while holding in place, nail through the six foot pieces, into the rungs.

Now you are ready to sand and paint! You definitely want to sand because the framing lumber will be rough and you don’t want any loose splinters winding up in your blankets! I used this Rustoleum Chalked Ultra Matte Spray Paint in the color Charcoal. After it dried, I used sandpaper to slightly destress it and make it look older.

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And there you have it, folks, a blanket (or towel) ladder of your very own. This project is quick and extremely cheap to make. Have questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments and I will get back to you!

Painting a Brick Fireplace

This post contains affiliate links to the products that we used for this project. All opinions are my own. 

This blog post should be called “The Project That Broke Me”. Yeah, I’m totally serious. In fact, the final product is completely thanks to my mother in law who saved the day. You see, shortly after we moved in, I wanted to tackle our red brick fireplace. It looked totally out of place in the room with our grey and white paint and I felt that the bright gold insert dated the whole room. I know, I know, the gold is actually coming back in style now, but it isn’t for me. After we tackled all of the main things (ripping out and replacing all of the floors and painting all of the walls), I was ready to handle this project. Just a few minutes on Pinterest and I learned that I could whitewash this entire fireplace with whatever white paint I had on hand, it would only take one coat, and it would be done in an hour.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Y’all. I can’t.

Painting a Brick Fireplace

 

The only explanation that I have for what happened next is that our house is old, therefore the brick is old, and it soaked up A LOT of paint. When I tell you that I whitewashed this fireplace EIGHT times, I am not exaggerating. Each attempt, I lowered the amount of water in the mixture, would dab on the mixture like instructed, step back and think about how much I loved it, and then go to bed. When I woke up, I would have a red brick fireplace again. Eight. Times. It soaked up the freaking paint eight times. I broke. Right around this time, I found out that I was pregnant and that was the perfect excuse for a nine month break from painting. At this point, the red brick was a few shades lighter, mainly on the bottom, and looked HORRIBLE. I wish I had taken a “during” picture but if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen how horrible it looked in one of my many IG stories of Declan’s dance breaks. Seriously, it stressed me out just looking at it.

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Now, I am really pregnant and have slowed down a lot. I am not as much help with home renovation projects as I used to be and gone is the girl who could build a dining room table with her husband over the weekend. I’m tired. This comes smack in the middle of our garage remodel so our families have graciously offered their time to help Colin convert the garage to a playroom. It’s a work in progress but I’ll be writing a post about that soon enough. Anyway, while Colin’s Dad helped in the garage a few weekends ago, his mom tackled the red brick. At this point, the insert was done, I had spray painted that before getting pregnant, and I had completely given up on the thought of whitewashing, I wanted thick layers of paint on that thing 🙂

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She used the same paint that we used on our trim (a paint/primer combo in the color Snowbound) and brushed and dabbed it on in a thick layer. It took about three hours but didn’t soak in, praise Jesus! Lol. She then used chalk paint to paint the mantle so that it wouldn’t need to be sanded or primed.  The finished product is gorgeous and I love looking at it so much. It completely changed the look of the whole room and even Colin has said that it makes the room look bigger. My best advice is to learn from my mistakes and if you have an older house, don’t be fooled by the Pinterest tutorials that claim you can mix a little water in your paint, throw it on there real quick, and be done. Try it, of course, but maybe don’t try it eight times like I did 🙂

 

Products Used:

“>Chalk Paint for the mantle- Went on really well and only needed two coats!

“>Spray paint for the insert. This is the same spray paint that I used on my dining room light fixture and my kitchen cabinet hardware so obviously I love this stuff!

For the actual brick, we used a Paint+Primer combo in the color “Snowbound”. It was a semi gloss that was left over from painting our trim.

 

Making Baby Food Pouches

Declan is a headstrong child, to put it mildly. He also inherited his Dad’s picky eating habits and those two really keep me guessing in the kitchen lol. What I have found though, through plenty of thrown food, is that Declan won’t touch produce if given to him in on a spoon or fork, but he can down a food pouch in about 3.4 seconds. Sometimes I wonder if my child will still be eating his veggies out of a pouch at his wedding rehearsal dinner but alas, I try to stay focused on the present… Or at least this decade. Struggling to get any micronutrients in this kid, I have resorted to buying a lot of pouches but those add up! Even at Aldi, the cheapest I have found, they are 80 cents a piece. Buying from Wal-Mart or even Amazon takes them up another twenty cents at least. I finally decided to try to do it myself to save a few bucks and as a bonus, I would know exactly what is in the pouches.

Prep Work Step #1: Buy the pouches. I ordered  these off of Amazon because they were a really awesome price and had good reviews. One of the main comments that kept popping up in all of the reviews was a warning to not overfill them but I definitely made that mistake on my own several times. Fair warning though, if you overfill past the “max fill” line, it can get messy.

Prep Work Step #2: Buy the produce. I went to Sam’s Club and got a bag each of organic sweet potatoes and apples for my first try. I also got spinach with the intention of mixing it in with the apples but mommy brain struck again and I forgot to add it. Let’s just say this mama has been eating a lot of spinach this week. I went with apples and sweet potatoes because I knew that those were two pouches he has never turned down and as a bonus, they were on sale 🙂

For the sweet potatoes, I threw all but two of them in my instant pot with a cup of water and cooked on high pressure for 18 minutes. When it was done, I let the steam naturally release. You don’t have to let the steam release naturally, I just did because I wasn’t ready to work with them yet. Once I was ready, I threw them in a bowl with some ghee, salt, and pepper and stirred/mashed them up. Sweet potatoes cook so well in the Instant Pot that this step is really easy. Once they were pretty much mixed, I decided to throw them in the blender because I had left the peel on them. If I hadn’t bought organic, I would have pealed them first but because they were organic, I didn’t worry about that step. I pureed them in the blender for about a minute and then scooped them into the pouches. Total cost for the sweet potato pouches: $0.40 per pouch!

For the apples, I won’t be able to give an exact price estimate because I forgot to keep up with how many of them we ate out of the bag before I made the pouches.. OOPS! I washed them, once again didn’t bother peeling, and cut them into cubes. I then threw them in my instant pot insert with a little cinnamon and half a cup of water and cooked on high pressure for 10 minutes. This made my entire house smell like Fall! I didn’t mind a bit! Once they were done, I dumped all of the contents of the insert into my blender and pureed for about forty seconds. From the blender, I was able to pour the apple mixture straight into the pouches. Because of the water content, the apples were way easier to get into the pouches because I was able to pour instead of spoon the mixture in but neither were difficult.

All in all, I am happy with the investment of the reusable pouches. They can be thrown in the dishwasher but so far I have just rinsed them out as soon as Declan is done with them and haven’t had any issues. The edges are rounded so there aren’t any corners that food could get stuck in. They can also be frozen and I have about fifteen pouches in the freezer that I can take out little by little as we need them.

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$120 Dining Room Table!

A few months ago, right after my husband switched jobs, we were browsing a new store in town one Saturday. We needed a dining room table badly but everything we loved was sadly very far out of our price range. On a whim, we decided to go to Home Depot and “just look” at the materials that it would take to build one ourselves. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how this table came to be. We didn’t “just look”, we wound up buying the materials right then and there, going home, and spending the rest of that day and part of the next building this table. It took us a little longer because we mainly worked during naptime and bedtime, but we got it done. Heck, it probably took us a little longer because neither of us had really ever built anything before! From the lumber, to the screws, to the stain, start to finish, this table cost us $120 – Hundreds and hundreds of dollars less than what was being charged for the same kind of table in stores!

We used these plans which were incredibly easy to follow. We had been watching the Shanty 2 Chic girls on youtube for a while and knew that we wanted to build a lot of their projects but I couldn’t be happier with how this one came out! A few weekends later, we also built a bench to match this set and there will be another post about that coming up!

$120 Dining Room Table (1)

Weekend Update

This weekend was another laid back weekend for us! The farther into this pregnancy that I get, the slower that I move and the harder it is for me to convince myself to finish home reno projects. Keeping up with cooking, cleaning, and Declan is a full time job especially when he hasn’t been sleeping well lately. This mama is tiredddd, y’all!

Since switching jobs, Colin has taken over Saturday morning breakfast duty and y’all, it’s heavenly. First of all, it’s nice to eat a meal that you didn’t have to cook but even more importantly, before this job change, we didn’t even know what a easy Saturday morning breakfast was! We were always rushing around to get to work and then once Declan came and I stayed home, Colin was always rushing out the door before we were even thinking about breakfast! This is a new concept entirely for us and we love it. Weekends off… What a beautiful thing. If you’ve ever worked retail, you know what I mean lol.

Clearly, Declan likes his Dad cooking breakfast too!

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Saturday afternoon was the Lulacrawl that I participated in with four other local consultants so Colin and Declan left the house for a few hours so I could work.

So. Much. Lula. Y’all! Saturday night we ate at my parent’s house and Sunday, we had a rainy sleepy day at home with many naps had by all 🙂 It was a perfect weekend in my book! Here is a picture of Declan lounging with his snacks after doing some grocery shopping with Colin Saturday morning. Love this little guy.

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Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Happy Thursday! Ever since we made the decision that I wouldn’t be returning to my job after having Declan, we have gotten pretty serious about budgeting. Luckily, we were gifted Dave Ramsey’s book and DVD set and have used his method to pay off debt, save, and we try to budget our money wisely… Most of the time 🙂  Some weeks are better than others but we really try to stick to our budgets as much as possible. For this reason, I have a  grocery budget and plan our meals according to that budget. This may seem limiting to some but I find it to be just the opposite. It’s comforting to me to know what I am spending, buying, and cooking at the beginning of the week.  Here are some tips that I use to stick to a grocery budget:

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  1. Have a plan! Make a meal plan for the week and then clean out your refrigerator. I try to do this on Sundays so I know exactly what I need for the week. I can’t tell you how many times I have over or under bought an ingredient because I didn’t clean out my fridge so I wasn’t sure what I had. Nothing worse than finding a whole bag of carrots as you put your new bag of carrots in the fridge… That might have happened to me a few weeks ago lol.
  2. Buy meat in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco. This membership is so worth it to me. Anytime I have a little extra in the grocery budget that I won’t be using, I head to Sam’s and buy an extra pack of meat for the freezer. I personally really like the ground beef that they sell in six 1lb packages, it makes thawing so easy to just be able to pull one package out at a time. When they don’t have that item, I just buy a large tray and portion it out into 1lb bags before I put it in the freezer. If Colin works overtime and we have extra cash in the budget, I will buy a whole case of chicken breasts, prep them into meals, and freeze them until we need them. Buying extra meat on weeks where there is extra is so helpful on the weeks that are tight. I also buy all of our toilet paper and garbage bags at Sam’s. Even with couponing, which I will talk about shortly, you really aren’t going to get a better deal on garbage bags and I like that I can stock up on toilet paper when it is on their Instant Savings program and forget about it for months. Sam’s has great produce but the majority of it comes in bags that are too much for our small family and we wind up wasting which makes me die inside a little lol. Because of this, most of our produce comes from Wal-Mart but if you have a larger family, Sam’s produce quality and price is better!
  3. Wal-Mart Grocery Pick Up. I feel like Wal-Mart Grocery pick up was made just for me 🙂 On weeks that I don’t utilize it, I ALWAYS overspend. If I step foot in the grocery store, I spend more than budgeted every single time and it’s normally on junk food. Grocery pick up lets me order from my laptop after I put Declan to bed, when I’m not hungry,  and pick it up the next morning. It also shows your total as you add things to the cart so it’s really easy to stay on budget. Kroger also has this service called Click List, but they charge a $3.99 convenience fee so I typically go to Wal-Mart. If you have never used Wal-Mart’s grocery pick up, you can click here to get $10 off of your first order! Yay for savings!
  4. Couponing! Now, it would take a whole blog post or even series of posts to go over exactly how to coupon so I can’t go into much detail here but I use coupons mainly for personal hygiene items. I don’t coupon every week anymore. At this point, I have a small stockpile of personal hygiene products and when that starts to get low, I will coupon again to build it back up. Couponing takes a lot of time and I totally give props to people who do it religiously every week but I just can’t do it. Having that stock pile saves money because I can normally get deodorant, body wash, lotion, baby wipes, etc for very close to free and that doesn’t take money away from my groceries every week!  The only food that I typically use a coupon for is cereal. The boys go through a lot of cereal and I can normally find great deals with online coupons at Kroger and stock up. I recently bought Colin twelve boxes of cereal because it was on a great sale at Kroger with a coupon and that saves me money from my weekly grocery budget because I won’t have to buy cereal for awhile.

Tell me in the comments what tips help you stick to a grocery budget!